Right DLC, Wrong Console
(WORK IN PROGRESS)
I was very excited for the released of Armoured Kill (or Armored Kill for those not using the Queen's English). After the Close Quarters DLC, I was looking forward to what was hopefully a more classical Battlefield experience; where Close Quarters was fast-paced, frenetic, tight, overwhelming, and chaotic, I hoped Armoured Kill would bring more of the tactical, sprawling and planned gameplay we are all used to and enjoy from maps such as Operation Metro and Caspian Border. Close Quarters was fun, and well designed with fully-destructible environments, so for an all-tank DLC, it was very exciting to see what DICE would put out.
To put it basically, DICE missed a golden opportunity to create a stellar piece of downloadable content for the console. Now, on the PC, Armoured Kill may be jaw-droppingly amazing. I've been told that it is. With 64 players to fill the extremely large maps, it's not hard as a console player to imagine why. But on the console, Armoured Kill simply fails to place any of its punches. The number of issues I have with the DLC number in the dozens, and I'll try to express them all here, but before you discount this review, please remember this is not a review on Armoured Kill over all formats, just the Xbox 360.
The DLC consists of four huge new maps built for tank and vehicle warfare, including the largest Battlefield map ever built. There are a number of new vehicles and of course, new assignments to complete. And not be forgotten, the shiny new gunship. No new guns, but at least it sates your appetite for new content, new vehicles and new maps.
Let's start on what Armoured Kill gets right. It's a short list, but I'll try. ATV's. Like the mongoose from Halo, these babies can FLY. They're hands down my favourite part of the DLC without question. Although their true potential will probably only be truly recognised in the large maps of Armoured Kill, I found myself hopping onto these speedy little death traps again and again throughout my time playing Armoured Kill. Dodging and weaving through tank battles, getting insane amounts of air time - it all lessens the sorrow of turning yourself into pink mist it you crash one into a boulder.
The maps aren't really bad in themselves. It's hard to judge whether a map is good or not when the gameplay and balancing lets it down. There very well may be choke points and intense pockets of furious combat that appear time and again, but with only 24 players on your server for a console, I'll never know. Bandar Desert is the largest map ever made in a Battefield game. It's probably also the one I've spent the most time on. There's no doubt it's big. Layout, well, it's average. You've got points of interest to either side and a huge open desert in the middle. Not terribly exciting. Armoured Shield and Death Valley are fairly decent as well, but are also let down by their layout. The only real map that I found enjoyable was Alborz Mountains, with narrow passes and steep inclines.
The main problem I had with the map layout, fairly evident in Conquest, was that the bases/flags, for the most part, simply felt "placed" or "dropped" into random areas, which no real connection to the landscape - so not necessarily the maps themselves, but the objectives within that map are the let-down. Take a classic map like Operation Metro for example; flag A is in an established township, B is in the ticket booths of the subway, and flag C is far below in the actual subway. The areas are varied and well planned. They feel unique and all have their advantages and alternates methods of defence. In Rush, it feels even more developed, with players running through and open park, to a subway, through to the city. Now in maps such as Death Valley and Armoured Shield, it feels like the designers have just taken a large blank canvas and simply pointed their fingers at empty spaces on the map and gone "Let's place a small collection of generic building here, here and here, and call them different names". It's boring, all too similar and gives little variety to the ways you attack/defend an objective. (BTW, you should note that the list of things Armoured Kill did right was shorter than even I expected!)
This is really my key issue with Armoured Kill, at least for the console: it's boring. You get a tank, you drive through generic terrain, you engage in a shot for shot tank battle, you capture an objective, you move onto a new objective, rinse and repeat until you win the game. There's no variation like a good game of say Operation Firestorm could bring. You might be attacking in tanks, but find their air power it too high, so you try your hand at disabling them. Or you might find you need to hold a particular building. Or snipe. Or anything! In Armoured Kill, it funnels down your choices to such a degree that you might as well not play if you are expecting variety. I've yet to see a soul brave enough to play as an assault class in Armoured Kill, and to see a squad comprised of anything but engineers or perhaps the odd sniper, is rare indeed. And don't even bother going on foot - you'll take yourself out of the game for at least 2 minutes while you run to an objective.
Using a tank, and actually getting in a tank are two different questions when it comes to Armoured Kill. The hilarious thing is, that Armoured Kill has a relative shortage of tanks! There's a new vehicle type, called the Tank Destroyer. If a tank and an IFV made love, this would be their child; a vehicle with a tank's gun and body, and room and machine guns for a few more players like in an IFV. The majority of "tanks" on Armoured Kill are comprised of Destroyers. You'll be lucky to even step inside a real tank over the course of your gameplay in Armoured Kill.
A similar scenario seemed to occur to me almost every time I spawned in Armoured Kill. Now, I'm not a bad player. I've sunk a few hundred hours into BF3, enjoy a positive K/D spread, play the objective, have unlocked the Ace Squad medal several times, and my best vehicle is the main battle tank. But for the life of me, I cannot play Armoured Kill. Here is my experience with the game almost every time: Spawn at the base. Run to get in a tank. No tanks, get in a destroyer. About to, team mate drives off - I can either run to catch him and be a secondary gunner, which in Armoured Kill is about as useful as a third nipple because everyone is in a friggin' metal tank, or I can wait at the base for a new vehicle to spawn. Wait a minute or two. Get bored, eye up an ATV. Drive on said ATV. Get blown up by a tank. Try to respawn on team mates - can't (for some reason, I can almost never spawn on a single team mate in Armoured Kill) so spawn on a flag. Flag has no vehicles on it, so try to leg it to another objective - get blown up by a tank. Spawn back at base. Still no vehicles. Leg it to the nearest objective. After about 2 minutes solid sprinting, I make it, by some strange magical charm. Settle down in a corner, hearing tanks roll all around me. About to capture the objective, get spotted and killed by a tank. Spawn at base. Finally a tank! Oh wait, just a tank destroyer. Oh well. Run out full speed to the battlefield, maniacally cackling at my new found superiority! Wait at an objective. About to capture the objective when the only other person who didn't get in a vehicle C4's me and I die. This goes on for a fair few minutes until the match finally ends and I am left holding broken dreams, minus a dozen on my K/D spread and more often than not, go back to normal Battefield.